Collections care and curation of Department of Defense owned and controlled archaeological artifacts and associated archival documents

Thomas J. Braun

Abstract

Many Department of Defense (DoD) archaeological collections are not stored according to the required standards prescribed in 36 CFR Part 79 (Curation of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological Collections). Addressing this problem requires the cooperation not only among the different branches of the military and the DoD, but also between the federal agencies and Native American groups, and other professionals including conservators, archivists, curators, and collection managers.

The statute 36 CFR Part 79 specifies that federal archaeological collections must be in the proper packaging, in an appropriate, climate-controlled facility, along with associated archival records. Since the early 1990’s the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Mandatory Center for Expertise for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections (MCX-CMAC) has been conducting Curation assessments of all federal collections within the DoD and other non-DoD agencies. These studies indicate that many DoD archaeological collections require additional care and proper storage in order to comply with 36 CFR Part 79.

Currently, the MCX-CMAC is starting a pilot study to begin to address this problem. Lessons learned from this project will assist the DoD in developing a curation strategy for all DoD archaeological collections. This pilot study will begin by addressing the curation needs of a sample of DoD collections from Navy,Air Force, and Marine Corps installations from different parts of country. These collections include a wide range of archaeological materials from across the United States. Part of the curation process will involve completing inventories of materials subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). It is anticipated that the completion of this pilot project will enable the DoD to effectively and economically plan for the curation process necessary to bring all DoD archaeological collections into compliance with 36 CFR Part 79.

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